al-Sawafir al-Gharbiyya


District: Gaza

Population 1948: 1200

Occupation date: 18/05/1948

Jewish settlements on village/town land before 1948: None

Jewish settlements on village/town land after 1948: Merkaz Shapira, Kibutz Masu'ot Itzhak


The village stood on the coastal plain, 30 km northeast of Gaza. It is called al- Gharbiyya (the western) as it was situated to the west of the two other villages with the same name al-Sawafir.

Pillars and similar remnants found in the village hint at an ancient population n the site . In 1596 its population amounted to 234 people which increased to 723 in 1931. They lived in 134 houses, most of which were built of mud and adobe bricks, although some where built of stone. 1030 people, all Muslim  lived in the village In 1945. The village had a mosque, a shrine dedicated to Shaykh al-Baz and a police station.

The three al – Sawafir villages shared a school with about 280 pupils in the mid 1940s. The village lands spanned 7,523 dunams. Agriculture, which was mainly rainfed, was the major income source.  Along with cereals, citrus fruits grapes and apricots were planted.

Occupation and depopulation
The village fell in the early stages of operation Barak, which was launched on May 9-th 1948 in order to cleanse the south western area under control of Hagana troops before May 15-th. It seems that the village was abandoned during attacks on the neighboring Beit Daras on May 10-th or Sawafir al-Sharqieh on May 18-th. The village itself may also have been attacked on this day.

According to Gamal abd al-Nasir, the late president of Egypt, who was a junior officer in the area at that time, the village was conquered only one month later, two weeks after the beginning of the first truce. According to his report there were no Israeli forces in the village on the day the truce was announced , nor were there Israeli forces in the two neighboring villages. When hostilities resumed Nasir's battalion received orders to recapture the village but this plan didn't succeed.

Israeli Settlements on Village Lands
Merkaz Shapira founded in 1948 and Kibbutz Massu'ot Yitzhak in 1949 are the two Israeli settlements on village lands.

The Village Today
All of the village houses are gone. Some cactuses fig and sycamore trees grow on the site. An old village road is clearly visible. The cemetery is overgrown with wild vegetation. One can see the debris of what appears to have been the water-pump building in the al-Baz orchard. The adjacent lands are cultivated by Israeli farmers.

Source: al-Khalidi, Walid (ed.). All that remains: the Palestinian villages occupied and depopulated by Israel in 1948. Washington DC: 1992.